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ArTanit Magazine

Fahrelnissa Zeid : The Princess Artist

Updated: Jan 7, 2019

Fahrelnissa Zeid or Fahr-El-Nissa(born the 7th of January 1901,

died the 5th of September 1991)was a Turkish artist best known for her large-scale absctact paintings with kaleidoscopic patterns.

Zeid was one of the first women to go to art school in Istanbul

Someone from the Past, 1980, Oil paint on canvas. Photograph: Tate Modern

Considered as a bridge between the west and the east Fahrelnissa Zeid was an important figure in the Turkish avant-garde d Group in the early 1940s and the École de Paris ( School of Paris ) in the 1950s.

It is possible to say that Zeid has a privileged place among important names because of her unique personality and her special understanding of art, her life story and background and for being one of the rare female artists in a male-dominated art scene in that time.

From the palace to the art galleries

Fahrelnissa Zeid was born Fahrünissa Şakir (hereafter referred to as Zeid), into an elite Ottoman family on the island of Büyükada.

Zeid’s father Şakir Pasha was appointed ambassador to Greece, where he met Zeid’s mother Sara İsmet Hanım.

She began drawing and painting at a very young age.

Her earliest known surviving work is a portrait of her grandmother, painted at the age of 14. In 1919, Zeid enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts for Women, in Istanbul.

Zeid's wedding with the novelist İzzet Melih Devrim in 1920, pushed forward her career as a professional artist to the next level. She was exposed during her honeymoon in Venice to the European painting traditions for the first time.

Fahrelnissa Zeid exhibition Tate Modern, London

Many stations to the international

Zeid’s life story is one that includes murder, monarchy, revolution and near-assassination. She was born into an aristocratic, artistic Ottoman family, where the liberal arts where embraced, but her life unravelled at the age of 13, when her older brother was convicted of killing their father.

After enrolling in art school during the demise of the Ottoman empire, she became involved with a group of radical artists and was close to Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.

Fahrelnissa Zeid's first personal solo exhibition took place in her house in Macka in 1944. In 1976, the artist relocated to Amman, founded an art institution that bears her name, and continues to support the institute until the end of her life. Zeid died in Amman in 1991.

In 2006 Istanbul Modern, bringing together the works of Fahrelnissa Zeid and her son Nejad Melih Devrim, one of the pioneers of Turkish modern art, with the “Two Generations on the "Rainbow yapıt" exhibition, the most important and iconic works of Zeid was exhibited.

Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern

"Think of modernism in art and Henri Matisse or Georgia O’Keefe may come to mind, but you’re unlikely to think of a 20th century female Turkish artist. However Fahrelnissa Zeid has undergone a growing resurgence in Turkey since her death in the 1990s. After featuring in the last Istanbul biennial her work has gone on display in which hasn’t seen a show of her work since the 1950s. Belle Lupton has been to the Tate Modern in London for a sneak preview." TRT WORLD SHOWCASE: "Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern".

The work of Fahrelnissa Zeid is a challenge to our current knowledge, often compartmentalized, as it is part of a cultural palimpsest and a personal synthesis1.

The artist has never claimed membership of any trend although

she exposed in the 1940s with group D, which is a decisive movement in the writing of Turkish modernity, and has been identified as an important member of the New School of Paris after war.

If her art escapes classification, her biography however is decisive in her artistic evolution.

Her life, resolutely romantic, is made of two marriages, many travels (Venice, Munich, Budapest, Scotland ...), a depression accompanied by a suicide attempt, fortune and misfortune, social climbing and downgrading.


  • "Fahrelnissa Zeid: Tate Modern resurrects artist forgotten by history" Article by : Hannah Ellis-Petersen posted in 12 Jun 2017 at -TheGuardian- Magazine.

  • Fahrelnissa Zeid Tate Modern, London Tue 13 Jun 2017 to Sun 8 Oct 2017 Website.

  • Fahrelnissa Zeid, TATE MODERN EXHIBITION Website.

  • "Tate Modern'deki Fahrelnissa Zeid retrospektifine İstanbul Modern damgası!" Website.


  • "Fahrelnissa Zeid at Tate Modern" -TRT WORLD Showcase- OnlineVideo.


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